Athen’s Central Market is a hive of activity. From early morning to late afternoon, this bustling market is a window on everyday life in the city.
Also known as the Varvakios Agora, Athen’s Central Market has been part of the city’s history for a long time. It was rebuilt on this site in 1886 after fire destroyed the original building. The markets were refurbished for the Olympics in 2004 when refrigeration units were installed to make them compliant with European Union laws.
Even with this modernisation, the market still offers glimpses of a life as it was. The meat and fish markets are both in the covered market.
The Meat Market
In the meat market, generations of butchers have worked the same small stall. The old wooden chopping blocks are reminder of the old days but today the meat is displayed in a modern refrigeration unit. Often the butcher will specialise in one animal with every part of the animal on display and sold
The Fish Market
The fish market is next door. That familiar fishy smell greets you long before you start to wander the aisles that are awash with water from the melting ice. There are a few imported frozen lines here but on the whole, the fish are fresh..some are even still wriggling!
It’s a noisy place…the vendors call out the daily specials, each trying to be heard over the other creating a fabulous atmosphere to lose yourself in.
Interestingly there is one non fish seller in amongst the fish stalls but no one knows how or why he is here.
The Fruit and Vegetable Market
Across the road is the uncovered vegetable market. The fresh vegetables are all beautifully displayed. We watched one vendor polish each piece of fruit and meticulously add it to his display.
We were here in Spring… the season for pomegranates, persimmons, grapes and of course those luscious juicy red tomatoes that taste like no other tomato! There were huge leeks about half a metre long, massive flat cabbages similar to those we saw in Turkey and peppers of every size and shape.
You could buy fresh olives here to put in brine yourself but if you were feeling lazy, next door was selling any type of olive you desired. I have never seen so many different types of olives…..we counted forty two varieties. Our particular favourites were the very large ones and the small crinkled ones which were delicious…names unknown!
Over the road, fresh eggs were availble.
Spice and cheese shops lined the footpath in front of the covered market and down the side streets extending the market area but these are the subject of another post. Stay tuned!